10 Pompeii Facts

Here are some facts about the city of Pompeii.

  • Pompeii was an ancient city in southern Italy. The remains of the settlement are located near to Naples.
  • The city of Pompeii was built at the foot of the volcano, Mount Vesuvius.

  • Pompeii predates Roman rule. Historians think it was a settlement built by the Oscan civilization in about the 6th century BC. It was then controlled by the Samnites, before becoming a Roman city in about 80 BC.
  • The city grew over the years and the original wooden buildings were slowly replaced with structures of brick and stone.
  • During the first century AD,  Pompeii was developing into a flourishing city port. It was a prosperous resort for numerous wealthy visitors. It contained many Roman villas, an amphitheatre, two theatres, several temples and an aqueduct system.
  • In 62 AD a severe earthquake did a significant amount of damage to Pompeii’s buildings. It took several years to rebuild the city after the damage and many of the residents relocated to other Roman cities.
  • Mt Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD. The eruption buried the city under volcanic ashes and cinders and exposed the city’s 20,000 inhabitants to blasts of hot air with temperatures of up to 250 degrees C, easily hot enough to kill even those people who were sheltering inside stone buildings.
  • Pliny the Younger, a Roman writer, witnessed the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, and his uncle, Pliny the Elder, lost his life trying to rescue the people of Pompeii.
  • Volcanic ashes completely covered the city, preserving the buildings.
  • People had forgotten that Pompeii even existed, and it lay buried under the ground for hundreds of years. In 1748 the excavation of Pompeii was begun and it archaeologists are still working on the site to this day.
  • In 1863, Giuseppe Fiorelli realised that some of the voids and gaps in the layers of ash were left by the decomposed bodies of Pompeii’s inhabitants. He pumped plaster into the holes and produced accurate casts of the people of Pompeii. A similar process is carried out today, using resin instead of plaster.

Pompeii

  • The eruption of Vesuvius was quite sudden, and many of Pompeii’s inhabitants lost their lives while going about their daily work.
  • Pompeii was not the only city covered by volcanic ash as a result of the eruption of Mt Vesuvius. Herculaneum and Stabiae may not be as famous, but the ash and cinders preserved them too.
  • Many of the buildings of Pompeii uncovered by archaeologists were in fantastically good condition and many of the walls were still covered with frescoes. Hundreds of well-preserved artifacts were also found.
  • Pompeii is now a major tourist attraction. It is UNESCO World Heritage Site and it attracts more than 2 million visitors every year.

What next? Discover more Roman facts or learn more about volcanoes.

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